Three Steps to Help Barnegat Bay

Read Save Barnegat Bay’s testimony to the joint session of the Senate Environment Committee and the Assembly Environment and Solid Waste Committee on the Health of Barnegat Bay. Here’s one BIG PROBLEM.

Testimony of William deCamp Jr., Chairman, Save Barnegat Bay
Before New Jersey Senate Environment Committee
and Assembly Environment and Solid Waste Committee
The Health of Barnegat Bay
Thursday, July 30, 2009
Lacey Township, New Jersey

Thank you, Chairman Smith, for holding this hearing in the Barnegat Bay watershed. Save Barnegat Bay is a not-for-profit environmental group that receives contributions from approximately 1,500 families and businesses annually. Our mission is to conserve clean water and undeveloped natural land throughout the Barnegat Bay Watershed. Save Barnegat Bay was founded in 1971 as the Ocean County Chapter of the Izaak Walton League of America.

We would like to bring to the attention of this Committee three conceptually simple actions that can be undertaken in the near future to benefit the ecological health of Barnegat Bay: (1) A statewide ban on the sale and use of those lawn fertilizers that contaminate our rivers, lakes and estuaries (2) A stable source of funding for Island Beach State Park. (3) A requirement that COOLING TOWERS be built at Oyster Creek Nuclear Generating Station in accordance with the Clean Water Act.

1- Ban sale or use of fertilizers with contents unfriendly to our state’s water bodies by means of legislation.

After comprehensive research, Save Barnegat Bay has created a Model Fertilizer Ordinance that could serve as an effective model for state legislation. This ordinance can be found on the Internet at Michael Borgatti, Science Research Associate for Save Barnegat Bay will address this subject in his testimony. A statewide ban on the sale or use of residential lawn fertilizers that contain excessive amounts of water soluble nitrogen or excessive amounts of phosphorus would be a major step toward the restoration to health of almost every water body in New Jersey, including Barnegat Bay.

2 – Enact stable source funding for the Interpretive Programs at Island Beach State Park and Liberty State Park. Maintenance of facilities and dune restoration should also be included.

Island Beach State Park is in crisis. In good times park funding is cut to the flesh; in hard times it is cut into the bone.

We urge the Committee to go farther than creating stable funding for Interpretive Programs. We commend to the Committee’s attention the “Beach Buggy Bill” proposed by Senator John Russo in the early 1990’s. This bill would have created an “Island Beach Improvement Fund” for three key aspects of the park: 1 – Beach/dune management and restoration, 2 – New facilities, major maintenance and access, and 3 – Education and interpretation.

A key problem in stable source funding of a single program is that in any given year the Office of Management and Budget may simply zero out of the park’s general funding an amount equivalent to the funds newly found. Senator Russo’s “Beach Buggy Bill” addressed this problem by legislatively stipulating that the funds could not be used to replace normal operating funding, which could not be cut.

Park fees at Island Beach generate more than $1 million in excess over the operating costs. Notwithstanding this surplus, the State Park Service has cut back the Interpretive Program, reduced maintenance, closed the office on weekends, failed to manage New Jersey’s first Marine Conservation Zone, and failed to hire sufficient seasonal staff to maintain the facilities.

As regards the Interpretive Program specifically, during the winter of 2008-2009 Save Barnegat Bay and the Friends of Island Beach privately funded and staffed the State of New Jersey’s Interpretive Program at Island Beach State Park. Without our volunteer funding and staffing, the Interpretive Program would have been terminated because the Resource Interpretive Specialist at Island Beach took early retirement and was not replaced. Our private funding may literally have saved the Park because – among other features – the winter Interpretive Program includes the dune grass plantings that keep the ocean from breaching the peninsula. The Division of Parks and Forestry was fully content to allow the Interpretative Program to die and was not at all supportive of our team that kept the program alive.

A scarcity of funds is not the only problem at Island Beach. No existing Resource Interpretive Specialist can be assigned from another State Park because state regulations prohibit their being reassigned without their personal consent. No corporation would ever function in such a way.

If a school bus wants to get into Island Beach State Park without paying a $50 entrance fee, a form and a lesson plan must be submitted a month in advance and approval must be obtained in the form of six different signatures of state officials – two in the park, and four in Trenton. This policy can only cause cancellations of scholastic educational tours. A simple alternative would be to trust the Park employee at the gate to know a school bus when he sees one and waive it through.

Few if any of the visitors to Island Beach are aware that the money they pay at the gate does not go to support the park. The state uses Island Beach as a for-profit entity that puts more money into state coffers than is remitted back to remedy the Park’s dilapidated state. This cannot be the purpose for which our parks were established.

Designating a portion of the gate at Island Beach and at Liberty State Parks toward maintenance of their respective Interpretive Programs would be a constructive step. Inclusion of the additional features specified in Senator Russo’s previous bill would be even more constructive.

3 – Require cooling towers at Oyster Creek.

The issue of the cooling system at the Oyster Creek Nuclear Generating Station is in essence a non-nuclear issue: What is the responsible way to cool any energy-producing plant?

Each and every day that Oyster Creek’s existing “once through” cooling system operates, a shocking 2.8% of the volume of Barnegat Bay is almost completely strained of life. [Percentages herein are calculated from the figures of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection.]

Oyster Creek’s “once through” system pulls 1.7 billion gallons of water per day backward up Forked River, through the plant, and back into the bay through the eponymous water body, Oyster Creek. By means of entrapment on screens, entrainment into extremely hot high pressure pipes, and injection of biocides this water returns to Barnegat Bay almost completely devoid of life.

These 1.7 billion gallons represent 2.8% of the 60 billion gallons of water in Barnegat Bay – 84% per month, and over 1,000% per year – strained of life, including most of the fish eggs and clam larvae.

We must also consider the effects that the thermal plume from the “once through” cooling system might be having on Barnegat Bay. The bay has recently been plagued by stinging sea nettles. Jellyfish are known to prefer warm water.
Barnegat Bay has also been plagued by a dramatic decrease in eelgrass – the species of submerged aquatic vegetation that anchors our ecosystem when it is healthy. Eelgrass is known to become unhealthy at temperatures above 83 degrees Fahrenheit. It should be noted that Oyster Creek’s cooling effluent is allowed to leave the plant at 114 degrees Fahrenheit.

These ecological insults to Barnegat Bay are occurring under a Clean Water Act permit that expired eleven years ago in 1998.

There is an extremely simple and affordable remedy to these problems. Requiring cooling towers would allow the same water to be used over and over, thus dramatically reducing the amount of water drawn from Barnegat Bay.

Those who claim that requiring cooling towers at Oyster Creek would cause the reactor to be closed for financial reasons are in error for two reasons. First, the cost of the towers can be bonded over the twenty remaining years of the reactor’s life. The current profit margin of the plant far exceeds the annual cost of bonding. Second, the Board of Public Utilities has the power to allow the plant to operate on a cost plus basis, which would obviate any financial burden on its operator.

Several versions of draft permits – one of which would require cooling towers – are now sitting on Governor Corzine’s desk.

This is a legacy issue for Jon Corzine. He will either give Barnegat Bay a chance to revive, or he will condemn it to at least two decades of continued gross degradation. The New Jersey Legislature could assist in solving this problem by using all possible forms of moral suasion to persuade Governor Corzine to at last take the obvious step of requiring cooling towers.

We are grateful for having been given the opportunity to address your Committees.

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